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  • Hellen Nyakundi

A VL Patient at Chemolingot

Updated: Nov 24, 2021

I am completely cured of Kala-azar! My name is Mingik Krop, I am 50 years old and a resident of Kamusuk Village in East Pokot. For a long time, I had struggled with an unknown ailment. My memories are vivid: the cold, hard wooden hospital benches, the sharp smell of antiseptic hanging heavy in the air, an ambulance siren wail approaching, and the sudden rush of receiving emergency care. I try to dispel my anxiety as the lab technician gives me my results. I cannot make sense of what is on this paper. I have never gone to school. Where I come from, cows give you status not education. When it is my turn to see the doctor, I hand her the lab results. She studies the paper briefly and then reviews my medical history. The trail of referrals and prescriptions is endless. She hesitates, she was sure she had nailed the disease, but my records show I have already been treated for that particular ailment. She asks me a few questions and tries to probe for clues. I say little. My Swahili is not very good. I wish she was a male doctor. I am not used to being addressed this way by a woman. Where I come from, we have clearly defined roles; women know their place. I am a fish out of water here. The doctor has prescribed a cocktail of medicines, antibiotics, pain killers, and vitamins. I swallow the prescribed dose, all at once. Some drugs are so bitter that I have to lick sugar afterwards. I complete the treatment course but the symptoms persist, and if anything I feel worse.

I get some relief when I lie down in the morning sun to bask. I watch my grandchildren play with baby goats. They run and try to catch them, but the goats are too swift and get away most of the time. It is amusing to watch. The women have gone to look for water, and I rarely have visitors. I haven’t been good company in a long time, you see, because of the pain I cannot sit for long. The number of friends visiting have dwindled, but every once in a while they remember to pass by. Today is a good day. I have a visitor. Her name is Rebecca. She inquires after my family, as is the custom, then sits down to chat. She is now a trained community health volunteer. As we continue to chat, she mentions that her training was sponsored by an organization called Izumi that is trying to educate people about a disease called Kala-azar. They also brought diagnostic kits to Chemolingot Hospital and other health facilities in East Pokot. As she describes the symptoms, I start paying more attention because she is describing me. I complete her statements. I have heard about Kala-azar, and even know a few people who died from it. Rebecca is insistent, “What do you have to lose, Chemolingot is just 5 km walking distance away and the test is free!” A positive Kala-azar result. Finally! Off I set to Kimalel for 30 days of treatment. It was long and painful as they injected me twice every day. I was not alone, there were others, including children. Every day I get stronger and better, and finally the day arrives for me to go home. I am still weak, but they assure me that I will recover. Be patient old man!

It is April 2016. I am ravenous, I eat everything in sight. I am not sure why, but when I lack something to eat, I get so frustrated I cry. The recovery is remarkable! I feel stronger and more alive than I have in a long time. My son is getting initiated into adulthood. As the father, I am required to take him food where he is camped, at the top of one of the hills. It has been a struggle. I have had to rest many times along the way. But the other day I walked all the way to the top without stopping to rest. It was at that point that I knew I am truly cured. I may never be as strong as I used to be, 10 years on, but I have my life back. I want to thank Rebecca, and Izumi. I don’t want to think what state I would’ve been in without them.

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